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Penny Coyne's name fits her

This week's aptonym raises money for United Way

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By Theresa Goffredo
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Penny Coyne, donor relations director at United Way of Snohomish County, says her name breaks the ice with clients.

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Penny Coyne, donor relations director at United Way of Snohomish County, says her name breaks the ice with clients.

Q: How did your name direct your career path?
A: My previous life was in broadcasting, in radio, but I wasn't Penny Coyne. My job was at KJR in the 1970s. I was a DJ and worked here in Everett, then moved to Los Angeles where I met my then to-be husband, and so after we got married I changed my name.
My husband worked in network radio in L.A. and we were buddies. We knew each other for months before he finally asked me out, and we had dinner and he said, you know my real name isn't Dave Anthony, and I said I didn't know that. And I asked him, "What's your real name," and he said, "Steve Coyne." I looked at him and said, "Oh great, so if we get married I'm going to be Penny Coyne. Yeah, right!"
I've been with United Way since 2004 and I'm not sure I know what a life-changing experience is, but this is as close as it gets for me: Fundraising for a nonprofit, meeting clients I serve, is so rewarding for me.
So as far as choosing my path, I know my name works because I'm out and doing fundraising, and I tell people now, my name wasn't because my mom and dad had a sense of humor, but with a name like Penny Coyne, you know I'm going to ask you for money. It really breaks the ice, and it's a great way for people to know what I'm up to.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A: Not ever. It's not about my name. My husband is my very best friend, and I wouldn't change it because being connected to him is the best thing that ever happened to me. And maybe that's old school, but it's very important to me and I'm proud of it. Steve is the love of my life. We'll be married 19 years in September.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: Let's see, I'm way too honest to be a politician …
Quite frankly the two paths I wanted to do growing up, one was an astrogeophysicist, studying rocks in space, and that was my dream, and in school I built a full-scale model of the visible side of the moon. My mom still has it today. That was in seventh grade for a science project, and I won the science fair.
Or, I would go into law, because I love to talk.
But I tell my bosses, "You are going to have to carry me out of here in a box."
When I was in radio I loved it; I wouldn't have done it for 30 years if I hadn't. It was the listeners, but when I started it was back when radio was owned by people; now it's owned by corporations. It was very fulfilling and I loved it dearly, but it doesn't compare to what I'm doing now.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: I have an example. I had once been a witness to an altercation between a guy and this gal, and it was getting ugly and I called 911. He was dragging her along with his car, and it was bad and the dispatcher was asking me questions and I started to shake, thinking he's going to kill this woman, and the dispatcher is like, "Would you like to give me your name or would you rather be anonymous?" And I gave her my name and she said, "Oh, that's so cute!"
So sometimes they get it right away, and it's like a light bulb going on like in a cartoon strip. Generally when I'm working I bring attention to it at the front end, and then I go on with the presentation so the audience can laugh, and we can go ahead and get that out of the way and move on.
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: One gentleman, when I was doing a presentation -- and remember, I've heard just about every nickel-and-dime joke there is about my name -- but this guy asked me after he heard my name, does that mean your husband is a Penny pincher? So I told him, I'm not sure, but I'll find out when I get home.
With me I get lots of "pennies from heaven," "Henny Penny," or the woman in the Bond movies was named "Moneypenny" so I get that too, anything and everything that has to do with money in any way, shape or form.
But I think what it does is it breaks down any barriers between me, the speaker and an audience, and it puts us all on the same level. You know, we all put on our panty hose one leg at a time.
What's an aptonym?
It's a name aptly suited to its owner. Read more stories about apt names at www.heraldnet.com/aptonyms.
About this series
The word is "aptonym."
It refers to people whose name suggests key attributes of their jobs, professions or lives. Their names might have, in fact, influenced their lives or careers.
It's no surprise that The Herald has found lots of these people living in our area. They are vital members of the community, as well as being good sports for playing along.
So for the third summer, we're profiling our local aptonyms. If you happen to know an aptonym or are one yourself, send the name to tgoffredo@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Human Interest

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